Getty Images

Mikaela Shiffrin chases higher goals as second Olympics approach

Leave a comment

After the finale of the 73-race World Cup Alpine skiing season in March, the winners of the men’s and women’s overall titles were brought together. They were handed crystal globe trophies and directed to pose for the cameras.

Those winners were Austrian Marcel Hirscher, who actually won crystal globes for the overall, giant slalom and slalom disciplines. And Mikaela Shiffrin, who took two crystal globes, for the overall and slalom.

It made for a very crowded photo shoot.

“He’s trying to juggle three different trophies,” Shiffrin (who actually learned to juggle and unicycle in elementary school) said in the spring, leading into this joke: “There’s nothing like standing next to Marcel Hirscher to make me feel like I didn’t do enough this season.”

She did plenty.

The Coloradoan clinched her first overall crown — the biggest annual prize in ski racing — four days after her 22nd birthday, making her the youngest champion in 14 years.

She became the fifth American to take the overall title since it was introduced in 1967 and won 11 of her 25 World Cup starts.

But Shiffrin always wants more.

In Sochi, in the early morning, bleary hours after becoming the youngest Olympic slalom champion, Shiffrin blurted out in a press conference that she dreamed of winning five gold medals in 2018.

She’s not retracting those words now. Five gold medals are certainly possible, though extremely improbable. The most gold medals any Alpine skier has won at a single Olympics is three.

“I believe in my ability, and I have a team around me that also believes in my ability, which allows me to stand behind that statement even if it was almost ignorant in a way,” Shiffrin said at a U.S. Olympic Committee media summit in Park City, Utah, two weeks ago.

The believers also included President Barack Obama, who embarrassed the skier by mentioning the five golds comment in front of more than 100 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes at the Team USA White House visit after the Sochi Winter Games.

“It’s not all supposed to be saying, like, undervaluing what the other athletes are able to do, because there are a couple of other athletes out there who also could win in five events,” Shiffrin said.

Realistically, Shiffrin does not see five individual golds in PyeongChang. She’s targeting three, maybe four events.

Slalom, where she can become the first man or woman to repeat as Olympic champion.

Giant slalom, where Shiffrin finished fifth in Sochi and improved to a silver medal at the world championships last February.

Super combined. Shiffrin did not race the combined in Sochi (one downhill run plus one slalom run) but won her first World Cup combined last season (albeit a super-G, rather than downhill, and slalom).

Super-G is a maybe. Shiffrin has never won a super-G but will race it in PyeongChang if she can make the four-woman U.S. team and feels comfortable.

Downhill is unlikely. Shiffrin raced her first two World Cup downhills last season but does not consider herself a speed racer. Plus, the U.S. team is loaded with accomplished women in the event — Lindsey VonnJulia MancusoLaurenne RossJackie Wiles and Stacey Cook. Only four starting spots are available.

“If I can compete in four events, it’s because I think I have shot to win a medal in four events,” Shiffrin said in Park City. “Five might be biting off too much even though I did go on record saying I want five gold medals, I want the world and the king of the universe and all those things last Olympics.”

The focus first is on the World Cup, which begins with the traditional season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, two weeks from Saturday.

It will be a key indicator for one of Shiffrin’s next short-term goals — to become best in the world in giant slalom. Last season, only Tessa Worley of France was better than Shiffrin.

If she can wrestle the crown away from Worley this fall and winter, and retain her slalom and overall titles, Shiffrin will be the one juggling three crystal globes at photo shoots.

Those World Cup trophies, earned through five months of results, are better indicators of superiority than Olympic medals. They’re also several pounds heavier.

“The Olympic gold, it’s a really big event, but that race in it of itself, one gold medal, just means the same thing as a World Cup [race] win,” Shiffrin said in the spring. “You’re the best for that day. And then the next day that could change.”

Shiffrin could become the first woman since Swede Anja Paerson in 2004 to win the overall, giant slalom and slalom World Cup titles in one year. If she achieves that, it might be on to the next goal.

“Right now my impossible is winning races in every event in a single season,” she said in the spring.

Four skiers have done that — wins in downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and combined in one season — Marc GirardelliPetra KronbergerJanica Kostelic and Tina Maze.

“I’m chasing that,” Shiffrin said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get there.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Mikaela Shiffrin’s best season also brought the most anxiety

Lindsey Vonn’s bid to race men has support, but delayed

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lindsey Vonn will not learn if she will be allowed to race men until after the Olympics.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) executive board tabled the U.S. proposal until May, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

FIS was originally expected to review it and possibly decide on it on Thursday at meetings in Zurich.

It was tabled because Vonn’s proposal is to race men not this upcoming season, but in the 2018-19 season.

“There is support for the proposal among members of the executive board, but also many points to clarify with FIS,” U.S. Alpine Director Patrick Riml said in a press release. “We’re encouraged by the discussion and the fact that we now have a formal proposal in front of FIS which we can review with FIS in more detail during the season ahead.”

Vonn, eyeing what should be her fourth and final Olympics, plans to open her season the first week of December at her favorite venue, Lake Louise.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: 15-year-old Olympic skiing favorite to miss PyeongChang

Lindsey Vonn’s proposal to race men to be heard

Getty Images
1 Comment

A proposal for Lindsey Vonn to race men will be formally put forward for the first time by U.S. Ski and Snowboard at International Ski Federation (FIS) meetings next week.

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard proposal is for Vonn to be able to race any World Cup downhill during the 2018-19 season, possibly Vonn’s last before retirement.

It’s unknown if FIS will decide on the proposal when it is heard in Zurich on Oct. 5.

“Further details are still unknown, but this is certainly an anticipated topic that divides the FIS officials,” the organization said in a press release Wednesday.

Vonn prefers the venue to be Lake Louise, where she has won 18 times in 41 career World Cup starts.

If Vonn were to race men and finish in the top 30, which is reportedly her goal, she would not displace a men’s skier from earning World Cup points, the USSA proposal says.

It’s believed that a woman has never competed in a men’s World Cup Alpine skiing race. It’s unknown if a woman has ever competed in a men’s event in any FIS competition, in any sport at any level.

Vonn petitioned the International Ski Federation (FIS) both in 2012 and this year (and perhaps instances in between) to race men in Lake Louise, which traditionally hosts men’s speed races in late November and women’s speed races the following weekend.

The bids have been denied so far.

FIS said in 2012 “that one gender is not entitled to participate in races of the other.”

After FIS discussed the topic in May, FIS women’s race director Atle Skaardal said that if Vonn is allowed to enter a men’s race, then men must be allowed to ski with women.

“It will be a very difficult challenge to find a reasonable way of doing this because one point that everyone is underestimating is that we need to have equal rights for everyone,” Skaardal, a 1996 and 1997 World super-G champion for Norway, said in a press release. “So if the ladies are allowed to race with the men, then also the men need to be authorized to ski with the ladies, and I’m not sure this is a direction we want to go.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: 15-year-old Olympic skiing favorite to miss PyeongChang